Minimalism and Anxiety

I was inspired to write this post after reading another with the same title over at A Minimalist Abroad. Berin talks about how minimalism helped him to reset his priorities in life – his job, his daily activities, and stressing over things that truly do matter vs those that don’t, thus reducing his overall stress and anxiety. It was a great read. I hope you’ll check it out.

A few years back, I was also diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and depression, as well as post partum depression and attention deficit disorder. I was a mess.

What I found to be true for me, personally, is that specific situations and stressors triggered most of my symptoms. The feeling of dread, the feeling of overwhelm, that desire to escape it all and run away vs fight it out. All of those things, for me, were triggered by my environment.

My job at the time triggered my panic disorder and, in turn, caused the PTSD. Leaving that job was a tremendous step in the right direction, and while it was disappointing to end that chapter in my life, it opened doors to a similar but less stressful aspect of the same career field. My panic disorder lightened tremendously upon leaving. I think I still suffer a bit from the PTSD; some of the things that triggered my panic way back then still produce a bit of anxiety for me now, but they’re quickly fading as triggers the longer time goes on. The post partum kind of goes away on its own as the post-pregnancy hormones a woman deals with start to level out, so that’s gone now. The ADD is still something I deal with on a daily basis, and it’s frustrating, but I’ve learned to cope. I don’t feel depressed anymore, but my doctor tells me that all of the above stem from general depression as a jumping off point, so if you have one, you have depression as well. Whether I believe that or not… I don’t know.

One thing that stuck around for me, however, was the anxiety disorder. It plagued me daily. I constantly felt on edge with a short fuse. I was no longer taking medication with a doctor’s approval, and my symptoms were mostly manageable, but I still wasn’t where I wanted to be. I felt angry a lot and I didn’t like it, so I started really analyzing when I felt my worst, what my environment was like during those times, and what I felt might reduce those triggers.

Through some serious soul searching and being real with myself, I discovered most of my anxiety came from my home environment. I made a list of all the things at home that stressed me out. Once I felt that list was complete, I made a list of all the things that stressed me out that I had direct control over – things like bills, housekeeping, laundry, etc. Those things I couldn’t control I knew I had to just let go.

I found I was stressed b/c I was so overwhelmed by my duties at home. Our house was in a sad state of disarray and I hated it! I didn’t know where to start! And once I got started, I simply couldn’t keep up. I was constantly working on something. I was always telling my children I couldn’t do [insert whatever activity here] with them because I had [insert whatever household chore here] to do first and then I’d have to do [another chore] and [another]. My poor kids. They had a mom who was too busy and too stressed to be a mom! I dreaded going home at night because I knew my work was just beginning as I filtered through the list of things I needed to accomplish that I would never actually get done – ever – and because my attention would be pulled in so many different directions: kids, dinner, laundry, general cleaning, etc, etc, etc. It was never ending! I was very unhappy.

I knew something had to change so I brainstormed how to change it. I made a list of what I felt was the solution and how to achieve those solutions.

  • We have too many bills
    • Fewer debts would result in fewer bills
    • Buying less would result in fewer debts
    • Keeping things longer would result in fewer debts
    • Spending within our means would produce fewer debts
    • Paying extra on things more often would reduce our debts
  • My house was constantly an overwhelming “where do I start” mess
    • The house would be less messy if people put their things away
    • People could put their things away if their things had a home
    • Things would have a home if there were fewer things to house
  • Mount Washmore was insurmountable
    • Laundry would be less overwhelming if I did one load of laundry a day
    • One load a day would be sufficient if everyone had fewer clothes

Things like that.

In very timely fashion, I stumbled upon Konmari and the Magic book, which, in turn, led me to minimalism. As soon as I read the book, I felt like I had a chance to actually take control. As a Type-A personality, control is important!

Since completing the Konmari method and embracing minimalism, I have found my anxiety is nearly gone. I still have anxious moments and times when I feel super stressed to the max, but like Berin said in his post – these stressors are produced by things with meaning now, not a to do list I can’t keep up with. I know that I’m at a point now where I can forgo the to do list once or twice a week if I need to take a break or if the kids need extra cuddle time and things aren’t going to end up wildly out of control again. I don’t have a mountain of chores anymore – I have routine chores that are done in a very short period of time.

It all works now and my anxiety is so greatly diminished that I don’t think I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder anymore. Now I think I suffer from occasional situational stress, which is a normal part of life. Finding this way of life has been so absolutely blissful. I am so very thankful.

You can get your own copy of the Magic book here. (affiliate link)

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